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Tonight we were driving down the street and Charity, my middle daughter, was in the midst of telling me a story about something that happened in the Trainer's Room today after track practice when "Jesus We Love You" by Isabel Davis came on. She immediately stopped, said "this is my song," and turned it on full blast. The next song came on and she kept singing. And then the next song continued the pattern.

I thought to myself, parenting is a journey full of mistakes, misfortunes, and moments where we wish we got a do-over. And although I've experienced all of those, I am thankful that through all of that my girls learned the power of worship, prayer, and serving. They are a glaring reminder to me, especially at this time of year, that parenting is not solely about what we

can give them monetarily, although that has its place. As Christian parents, it is most incumbent on us to give them a language to communicate with God that is louder than everything else that is screaming at them in society.

In two days, and truthfully some of it has already started, the season of "parent guilt" for some us will become very loud. You might wish you can do this or do that. You might be tempted to take out loans or max out credit cards to buy gifts you cannot afford. For some, it won't be that extreme. For some, you will wait in a line for a holiday food box or Christmas donation. Before you get too down...let me encourage you. I've been there. More than one year. And more than two. While it is painful now, remember that every gift you give them they will outgrow, except for the gift that speaks to their spirit.

I'm not saying parents should not want to give their children presents at this time of year. You should! That has its place. However, before the parent guilt starts I want you to know that whether you give them one present, five, or fifteen, the things that they will remember the most have no monetary value. They cannot be bought or sold. They can only be taught and shared.

This Thanksgiving. This Christmas. This holiday season. If you can't give your kids anything else, please make sure to give them Jesus. He will outlast everything else.


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My youngest daughter had her first gymnastic meet of the season. At each meet, the goal is to get as close to an all-around score of 40 as possible. For my daughter's level, anything lower than a 36 is, to say the least, not a reason to rejoice. This means that she needs to average nothing less than a 9.0 on any event. She started the meet off on the uneven bars; not her strongest event. After her foot slipped from the bar, she was only able to earn a score of 8.6. We sank in our seats as we knew the chances of her averaging anything above a 36 for the night seemed dismal. We sat through the next three rotations and at the end of the evening she placed third all-around and earned a 36.75 all-around score! She went from a rough start and excelled at all the other events for the night. Ministry, likes this meet, has some difficult moments but here are a few things that made a difference for her tonight that I think can help us.

First, she refused to let one mistake determine her mood. Ministry is full of quick decisions. Submit this. Post this. Say that. Call this person. Disregard this complaint. Listen to that feedback. Sometimes those quick decisions work out well but sometimes they cause a "slip" and we wish we could take them back. When those quick decisions cause a slip, we cannot allow it to alter our mood. We must be willing to try again and move on.

Second, her coach stood beside her telling her to shake it off. It is critical to have mentors in ministry that don't hold mistakes over your head. Everyone has said something they wish they could take back or missed a moment that they wished they clutched onto. A good coach knows when the weight of our own mistakes is already on our shoulders and, instead of adding more, encourages us to shake it off and move on.

Third, she moved on to what was in front of her. Not just physically but mentally and emotionally. She had to focus on the next events - beam, floor, and then vault - or else she would have continued to make more mistakes that evening causing her overall score to drop more. We cannot focus on what was. Only what is. If you make a mistake, keep the overall goal in mind, shake it off, and keep aiming to what is in front of you.

Ministry is fast-paced and sometimes things change from moment-to-moment. There will be evenings when the perfect 40 is just out of reach. Lead anyway! Don't leave the meet! No matter the mistake that happened...no matter how far out of reach it seems...the goal is the same. To lead in such a way that brings glory to God and points people to Jesus. When we mess up, and inevitably we will, we cannot afford to stay there too long. Refuse to let one mistake determine your mood. Listen to the voice of an encouraging coach. And then proceed to the next thing you can do to move successfully toward the ultimate goal.

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There is a new generation on the horizons of leadership in our congregations. While their permanent name will be assigned sometime in the future, researchers are calling them Generation Z, iGen, the Centennials or the Founders. For the sake of this article, let’s go with Gen Z. Most researchers have settled on Gen Z being born around 1995 – 2015 (although the final year is still being determined). They are characterized by being individuals who are too young to remember what life was like before September 11th. While they are the children of Gen Xers and Millennials, they are extremely different from those generations with defining characteristics on how they see the world and view faith.

Their social views are different. Disney princesses have different skin color, hair color, and hair types. They had an African American president for the majority of their lives. Their parents are multi-racial. Their classrooms are diverse across racial, cultural, and economic lines. Having friends with two parents of the same gender is not unknown to them. Members of Gen Z walk in a room and are more likely to recognize the lack of diversity than the presence of it (Dorsey, Jason. 2015. Center for Generational Kinetics). Gen Z sees a lack of diversity as an indicator of isolation and that all people are not welcome within a group of individuals. They are much more open to seeing and judging the inside character of a person before erecting cultural barriers.

In regards to their social habits, there has been a 38% drop in alcohol and tobacco usage (Annie E. Casey Foundation, 2016). They recognize the need to make the most of their educational opportunities and thus teenage pregnancy rates are down 40% and teenagers are graduating high school on time at an increased rate of 28% (Annie Casey Foundation, 2016). They experienced the consequences of the social mistakes of their parents and grandparents and have refused to go the same route. Life has an intrinsic value to this generation. They want to make the most of their opportunities and see a purpose for existing beyond themselves. As the Church, we get the benefit of directing that purpose in a way that capitalizes on their God-given talents and personalities. They love life and want to live it abundantly. It will be our job to show them how through the lenses of faith in Jesus Christ.

Their lenses for processing information operates differently than ours. According to the National Center for Biotechology, the average attention span in 2000 was 12 seconds. In 2015, it is 8.25 seconds. With Gen Z, we have less than 8.25 seconds to present something to them in a way that peaks their interest and catches their attention. They have “eight-second information filters” that have been crafted by growing up in an internet world with limitless amounts information (White, James Emery. 2017).

If we can capture their attention in less than 8 seconds, it will be paramount that we answer the question of why they should care about spiritual matters to a spiritually illiterate audience. In addition to their social views being different than previous generations and their preoccupation with living a peaceful and purposeful life that is open to everyone…In addition to their attention spans being shorter than that of a goldfish (fish attention spans are actually 9 seconds)…Gen Zers are not post-Christian. According to Dr. White, they are considered further down the road from that as “spiritually illiterate,” and don’t have even a memory of the Gospel as part of their lives. Because a large number of their parents were post-Christian, they have not been given the tools to fill the spiritual needs that remain. It is like taking a child who never had a book in their home, but has been successful in life, and now telling them at 15, 16, 18, or 21 that it is important for them to read. In order for them to agree with you, you would need to show them the need.

If we are going to reach the next generation for Christ, we must understand that their social outlook is wider than our generation. We must be willing to capture their attention quickly, answer their questions purposefully and succinctly, and then present the grace of the Gospel with language that doesn’t require Biblical knowledge. We must be willing to walk alongside the members of Gen Z and embrace their drive for purpose and their inquisitive questions without quickly judging and condemning their actions. They will find Christ through relationship that has cared enough to meet them where they are.

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